Plains Oil Spill Litigation Resource Center
This website is maintained by the law firms identified below, to provide access to information and documents related to the class action lawsuit filed against Plains All American. The lawsuit was filed to recover losses suffered as a result of the massive oil spill on May 19, 2015 from an underground pipeline owned by Plains, located along the coastline near Refugio State Beach in Santa Barbara County, California.
Current Case Status
JURY FINDS PLAINS ALL AMERICAN PIPELINE LP GUILTY OF CRIMINAL CHARGES IN PEOPLE V. PLAINS: On Friday September 8, 2018, the verdict was returned in People v. Plains (Santa Barbara Superior Court Criminal Case No. 1495091). The jury found Plains All American Pipeline (“Plains”), guilty of the felony count of knowingly discharging oil into the waters of California. Plains was also found guilty of knowingly making a false or misleading oil spill report to the California Office of Emergency Services and failing to immediately report any release or threatened release of a hazardous material to emergency agencies upon discovery, both misdemeanor charges. Plains was found guilty of six additional misdemeanor charges including unlawfully allowing a substance/material hazardous to fish, plant and bird life to spill into state waters and beach. Sentencing is scheduled for December 13, 2018.
Articles regarding the criminal case are linked here:
Jury finds Plains All American guilty of 9 counts for 2015 Santa Barbara Co. oil spill - KSBY, Sept. 8, 2018 (www.ksby.com/story/39050249/jury-find-plains-all-american-guilty-of-9-counts-for-2015-santa-barbara-co-oil-spill)
Pipeline company found guilty in 2015 California oil spill - Associated Press, Sept. 7, 2018 (www.cnbc.com/2018/09/07/the-associated-press-pipeline-company-found-guilty-in-2015-california-oil-spill.html)
REAL PROPERTY CLASS: On March 5, 2018, Plaintiffs' renewed their request for the court to certify the real property class. On April 17, 2018, Judge Gutierrez certified a Real Property Class that can now move forward with their class action lawsuit against Plains. The Real Property Class is defined as:
Residential beachfront properties on a beach and residential properties with a private easement to a beach (collectively "Included Properties") where oil from the 2015 Santa Barbara oil spill washed up, and where the oiling was categorized as Heavy, Moderate or Light, as identified in Exhibit A to Plaintiffs' renewed motion.
Excluded from the proposed Subclass are: (1) Defendants, any entity or division in which Defendants have a controlling interest, and their legal representatives, officers, directors, employees, assigns and successors; and (2) the judge to whom this case is assigned, the judge's staff, and any member of the judge's immediate family.
In his order, Judge Gutierrez also appointed Plaintiffs Baciu Family LLC, Alexandra Geremia, Jacques Habra, and Mark and Mary Kirkhart to serve as Subclass Representatives. Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein, LLP, Keller Rohrback L.L.P., Cappello & Noel LLP, and Audet & Partners, LLP were appointed to serve as Class Counsel.
Notice has been mailed to all Class Members; a copy is available here. If you have questions about whether you are a member of the Real Property Class, please complete the Contact Form available here. You will receive a response confirming whether or not you are a Class Member within two business days. For more information about how to participate in the class action, or how to exclude yourself, please see the Frequently Asked Questions here.
To view copies of the Judge's orders, the renewed motion for class certification, or other key documents, click here.
FISHER CLASS: On February 28, 2017, Judge Gutierrez ruled that fishing businesses affected by the oil spill could move forward with their class action lawsuit against Plains as a certified class. This includes fishers in the affected area and both wholesale and retail businesses that purchased and re-sold commercial seafood harvested from those fishers. In that same order, the Court appointed Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein, LLP, Keller Rohrback L.L.P., Cappello & Noel LLP, and Audet & Partners, LLP as Lead Counsel for the class action. For more information about your rights as a fisher class member, please see the Frequently Asked Questions here.
OIL INDUSTRY CLASS: On July 12, 2017, Plaintiffs' renewed their request for the court to certify the oil industry and property owner classes. On February 9, 2018, Judge Gutierrez certified an Oil Industry Class that can now move forward with their class action lawsuit against the oil company as a certified class. The Oil Industry Class is defined as:
Individuals and entities who were employed, or contracted, to work on or to provide supplies, personnel, or services for the operations of the off-shore oil drilling platforms, Hidalgo, Harvest, Hermosa, Heritage, Harmony, Hondo, and/or Holly, off the Santa Barbara County coast, or the on-shore processing facilities at Las Flores/POPCO, Gaviota, and/or Venoco/Ellwood, as of May 19, 2015.
In his order, Judge Gutierrez also appointed Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein, LLP, Keller Rohrback L.L.P., Cappello & Noel LLP, and Audet & Partners, LLP as Lead Counsel for the Oil Industry Class and appointed the Moving Plaintiffs as class representatives.
Defendants have successfully petitioned the Ninth Circuit for permission to appeal the certification of the Oil Industry Class. Defendants sought to stay the district court proceedings while the appeal is pending, but their motion was denied by Judge Gutierrez on August 28, 2018. You can review documents related to the motion here.
Notice has been mailed to all Class Members; a copy is available here. For more information about how to participate in the class action, or how to exclude yourself, please see the Frequently Asked Questions here.
TOURISM CLASS [NOT CERTIFIED]: On February 28, 2017, Judge Gutierrez denied Plaintiffs motion to certify the tourism subclass, defined as:
Businesses in operation on May 19, 2015 that provided services such as attracting, transporting, accommodating, or catering to the needs or wants of persons traveling to, or staying in, places outside their home community, located from the south coast of Santa Barbara County (from Gaviota to the eastern Santa Barbara County line) to the coastal zone of Ventura County (defined as the beach-harbor- seaport area from the western Ventura County line to Point Mugu).
The court ruled that this group of claimants cannot proceed as a group.
Options for Non-Class Members
If you are not a member of one of the certified classes but believe you were affected by the Plains oil spill, you may wish to consult an attorney, to consider filing a claim or lawsuit against Plains under state law, or to consider filing a claim directly with Plains, under the federal Oil Pollution Act (“OPA”). For more information about OPA, please refer to the U.S. Coast Guard’s OPA claim website: www.uscg.mil/Mariners/National-Pollution-Funds-Center/Claims. Be aware that important deadlines are approaching that may affect your rights.
Plains OPA Claims Process Information: The lawsuit does not include claims based on the federal Oil Pollution Act (“OPA”) statute, but does seek to recover all damages suffered by class members as a result of the oil spill, including some types of relief that are not available through the OPA process, such as punitive damages and damages for future losses that may occur as a result of the oil spill. As a class member, you may continue to request payment for your OPA claim directly from Plains Pipeline. Any money you get through the OPA claims process may be deducted from the amount of funds you would be entitled to recover in the class action. If you make a claim for losses directly to Plains or Plains’ claims administrator, you may be asked to a sign a release in exchange for payment. If you have questions about how that release may affect your legal rights, contact the attorneys below for a consultation.
Andrews, et al. v. Plains All American Pipeline, LP
United States District Court, Central District of California
Case No. 2:15-cv-04113